Living in the Middle Tennessee area means that Baylor Bramble's name has been in my Facebook news feed a lot. He's a Seigel High School football player who was injured during a game in October. His dad is posting updates on Twitter- https://twitter.com/PastorBramble. My heart breaks for their family, as we know all too well the journey of a child with a Traumatic Brain Injury. For us, there was never a shortage of people wanting to help, praying for us, and encouraging us. I can only imagine that the same is true for the Bramble family. So I wanted to share what I think are practical ways to help a family going through a medical crisis like TBI. In reality though, I think these will apply to all extreme medical traumas.
1. Prayer- I know we had a HUGE prayer support team when Timothy was in the hospital and even once we were home. It's so encouraging on the really rough days and even on the good days to know that people from all over are praying for your family. I know a lot of people are praying for Baylor's recovery, but I thought I might point out some other needs to pray for.
This is a long journey for the entire family. There are so many steps on the long road of recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury. So I want to encourage people to pray for Baylor's parents. While my faith carried me spiritually through this journey, my body suffered from such a prolonged, stressful time. It's been three years now and I'm still struggling with my health. There's not really a way to keep from wearing yourself out physically when you have child going through this. After a while, it really takes a toll. Even though I felt strong spiritually, physically I was struggling. It never occurred to me to ask for prayer for my own health while I was so focused on my son's health. So I'll ask on behalf of Baylor's parents. Pray for their physical strength while you are praying for their spiritual strength.
Pray for his siblings. This time can be so overwhelming and confusing for them. Some of my children didn't open up about their struggles through this time until a year or more later. They may not know how to express what they're feeling yet or they may not feel comfortable sharing. To them, it might feel selfish to share how this is impacting them when they are watching a sibling struggle to survive. This is hard enough for adult minds to process. Just imagine how difficult it must be as child trying to navigate such a difficult time.
2. Meeting Physical Needs- It seemed as if we had our own little private army that swooped in to meet our needs. Between family, friends, and our church family we had a support system that provided things we didn't even have the time or energy to think about. We had people taking care of our yard, cleaning our house, providing meals for our family at home, providing meals for me at the hospital, gas gift cards for traveling, restaurant gift cards, etc. My sister drove from Arizona to Tennessee with her 5 children to help take care of our other children for two of the weeks Timothy was in the hospital. My Sunday School class continued to provide meals for my family not only while Timothy was in the hospital, but for a month after he came home. I also had neighbors and friends who picked up my other children to take them out to go have fun somewhere. Every little and big physical need that was met for us was a blessing. Each need that was met, meant one less thing for me to worry about while taking care of Timothy.
3. No Expectations- Email, text, send cards, and provide things without the expectation of any kind of acknowledgement. With the Facebook memory app, I've seen messages that people posted on my wall in the days after Timothy's accident that I don't even remember. I had a friend email me almost daily to let me know how he was praying for us. He continued to send these emails for several months after the accident. I apologized one time for never responding to any of his emails. He told me there wasn't a need to apologize and he never expected me to respond. He just wanted me to know what his prayer for us was each day. That was so freeing to be released from the expectation I had put on myself to respond. The truth is, when you're going through something like this, sleep is difficult. There's so much to keep up with medically, it can be overwhelming. Your brain cells are busy trying to keep up with all this new terminology, countless doctors, medicines, medical procedures and so on, you may read something and then completely forget about it. While I may not remember every text, note, post, or email that I read, what I remember overall is how much support we had. This family's life will never be the same. They will mark time as "before the TBI" and "after the TBI". There will be good days and bad days. Seasons where they can be involved in the lives of others and times where they can't think past what's right in front of them. When Timothy was released from the hospital, our chaotic life didn't end. In fact, it felt more difficult in some ways. In the first 54 weekdays after his release, he had 60 appointments. Juggling all those appointments as well as trying to jump back into life at home was extremely difficult. The important thing is to free them from any expectations- for a long time.
I don't personally know this family, but I hope I can meet them someday. While there will be many hard days ahead, there will also be many times of "build an altar" moments for them. Those times where you experience God in such a real and new way, that in Old Testament times you would build an altar as a reminder for generations to come. I learned through our journey how bright the light of the Lord shines in the midst of the darkness. Though this isn't a path I would have chosen on my own, I'm so thankful the Lord used Timothy's TBI to strengthen me and draw me closer to Him. It's comforting to know the Lord doesn't change even when our circumstances do. It's comforting to know the One who holds the future when we can barely think past the next 2 hour check. I would encourage people to commit to walking this journey with the Bramble family for the long haul. The Father has shown us such great, sacrificial love. Now the Bramble family needs us to model what has been shown to us.